Saturday, October 2, 2010
A fascinating bore
They’ll call you dear, and with their kind of hospitality, they mean it.
We were warned by new Moncton friends, Theresa and Dennis, whom we first met on the Internet when talking about our fibreglass trailers, their’s an Outback and ours the Burro, that the salutation from anybody and everybody would be dear. It was one of the first things this formerly-Ontario couple noticed when they moved here.
It doesn’t matter how old anyone is in the exchange. That young woman –younger than our daughters – at the convenience store calls us dear as she gives the total for our purchases. It’s one way you know you’re in the Maritimes.
We had come to Moncton after a two-day stop in Saint John, a city that offers the tourist a great farmers’ market, the longest running in the country. It’s in the heart of the old downtown and operates six days a week, all but Sunday. The sights, sounds and smells catch your senses the minute you walk in the door. And the little bag of mixed fish and seafood for a chowder cooked up as a great dinner, not to mention the nearly-last corn on the cob of the season.
What Saint John does with spectacular thoroughness is show you the impossible, twice a day with unfailing regularity as the moon ensures the tide changes. At and around low tide, the Saint John River does what all rivers in this country do.
It flows downstream into the sea.
It’s a lovely sight, even in the dense morning fog that surrounded us for most of our two-day stay. Water tumbles and roils over rock long-since washed smooth and carves pathways around this island and that, as it follows its natural course. The white water is impressive but the tourists, disgorged at the railing from a steady stream of tour buses, taxis and private vehicles, begin to wonder why they’re here.
It’s when they come back for the hours surrounding the late afternoon’s high tide, when their buses and vehicles have been brought back to the same parking lot again, that they know why they came.
The white water of the morning pales in comparison since the afternoon waves are so much bigger, active and intense. But what defies all reason is these waves, this boiling current, is flowing up-river, away from the ocean.
While your brain follows the logic of a high, high tide – Bay of Fundy tides can reach 53 feet and are the highest in the world – meeting the flowing river with more than enough force to push it backward, your eyes remember what they saw this morning and say, “This can’t be.”
What humans find hard to understand is accepted by the animal kingdom. The cormorants perch on the islands, waiting for the waters to calm as the tide starts to turn yet again. It isn’t until there is some calmness that they descend to feed on fish caught up in the maelstrom and desperately trying to make it unscathed back to the ocean.
The harbour seals come in near the shore to feed undisturbed as things calm down, but not until the humans have had their fun with this tidal bore.
The jet boat operator promises thrill upon thrill on the ride as he takes one boatload after another out to rock and roll on impossible waters. He is quick to point out that all electronic equipment should be left dockside and while he dresses passengers in lovely slickers and pants, they are also warned to bring a change of clothes with them.
They will be soaked to the skin, and happy about it on a cool fall day, by the time they’re through. The boat operator, for all the world like a very young man getting his thrills and chills driving like a maniac, knows these waters so well that passengers will be frightened again and again that the large boat will lose its battle with current and turmoil, but it never does.
We watch and wait for the slack tide, wanting to see when these waters look no more harmless than a lake, when tide neither high nor low dominates and the waters are still.
The cormorants and seals feast on this time.
We head back to our campsite to feast on the farmers and fishers products.